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Cancer and Carbohydrates

Change your diet, change your life

Yes, research indicates you can starve cancer by making simple changes in what you eat

Cancer, in its various forms, is the scourge of the industrialized world. And yet, research has found that it’s “very rare among uncivilized hunter-gatherer societies.”

So concluded the authors of a study published in the October 2011 issue of healthcare journal Nutrition and Metabolism.

In this article, “Is There a Role for Carbohydrate Restriction in the Treatment and Prevention of Cancer?“, the authors explore whether carbohydrate consumption habits are a factor in the onset of cancer.

It comes down to understanding how your body reacts when it’s short on carbohydrates, and the impact this can have on cancer prevention and treatment.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of your body’s fuel sources. As a result, they play a vital role, but they often get a bad reputation. That’s because people often eat too many carbohydrates relative to their amount of physical activity. If your body has more fuel than it needs, one of the well known side of effects is that it gets stored as fat, but it can also be a major contributing factor to a host of diseases.

And with Halloween just behind us, and the Holiday season ahead, it isn’t hard to appreciate how many of those extra carbohydrates end up being bad ones, like candy, chocolates, and sugary baked treats.

Your primary sources of carbohydrates should be from whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, gluten-free whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, and nuts and seeds. (If this sounds familiar, refer back to our recent post on the benefits of the hunter-gatherer paleo diet.)

What does your body do if it doesn’t get enough carbohydrates?

It turns to the energy source it has stored in reserve – your body fat.

When your body breaks down fat for energy, it produces a by-product called ketones. This isn’t a problem for healthy people who are losing weight. (This is a whole separate issue around the risk of ketone toxicity for people with diabetes.)

In fact, according to this study’s authors, a shortage of carbohydrates in the diet of a healthy person that leads to the presence of ketones in the blood can serve to prevent and treat cancer.

What does this have to do with cancer?

The authors looked at data from 229 hunter-gather societies, where the diet relied on meat, seeds, nuts, and wild fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index (this indicates how much a given food boosts your blood sugar levels). This means their carbohydrate consumption is “markedly lower than in Westernized societies.”

Many studies have shown that a diet high in carbohydrates and foods with a high glycemic index “have been linked to modern diseases like metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, cataracts, macular degeneration, and gout.” In addition, scientists have known for a century that there is a relationship between cancer and carbohydrate consumption.
But if you cut back on the carbohydrates (even those healthy whole grains), and foods with a high glycemic index, you will starve the disease.

That’s because malignant cells, such as cancer cells, need the sugar from carbohydrates as a fuel source. They can’t use fatty acids or ketone bodies like healthy cells can to survive or multiply.

The conclusion? Lowering your carbohydrate intake isn’t only good for your waistline, it “can have direct beneficial effects on the prevention and treatment of malignant diseases.” It can even inhibit the spread of aggressive forms of cancer.

Notice the word “prevention.” You don’t want to wait until you’re diagnosed with cancer to start.

Eat lots of fats, so long as they’re the right ones

And you don’t have to become a hardcore paleo convert, either. Studies have shown that even moderate reductions in carbohydrate intake can be beneficial. Remember, you body does need carbohydrates – it isn’t healthy or safe long-term to force your body to rely solely on stored fat as its energy source. You just need to be mindful about what kind and how much you consume.

There are many diet plans aimed at fighting and preventing the return of cancer. One that has had some success to shrink cancer tumours is called the “ketogenic diet,” which has also proven effective to treat other conditions, like epilepsy and obesity. But do your research and consult your family doctor – this diet can have side effects, and its long-term benefits as a cancer fighter are still debated.

In this diet, 80 per cent of your calories come from fat (that’s not a typo), and the balance from protein and carbohydrates. The key, of course, is the type of fat you eat. The best type is medium chain triglycerides, found in things like coconut oil.

On a final note, the authors also warned against chronic “smoldering” inflammation, which can contribute to the onset of malignant diseases such as cancer. A common source of this is the protein gluten, found in wheat – a carbohydrate source that most westerners eat to excess.

Did you find this information useful?

I hope you did. Please share it with your friends and anyone you know who’s looking for a Kanata Chiropractor. You can also follow Hazeldean Family Chiropractic on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where we regularly post on other health-related topics. Our website also has great information about Chiropractic care and other health topics.

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